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The time is World War II. The place is a brutal prison camp deep in Japanese-occupied territory. Here, within the seething mass of humanity, one man, an American corporal, seeks dominance over both captives and captors alike. His weapons are human courage, unblinking understanding of human weaknesses, and total willingness to exploit every opportunity to enlarge his power and corrupt or destroy anyone who stands in his path.

From the Paperback edition.

Book Reviews

King Rat
Average rating
4.5 / 5
Honour, jealousy and profit in a POW camp
August 25th, 2015
This is probably the most balanced exploration of profit motives and the human capacity for enterprise that I've read yet. The titular King uses every bit of cunning and intellect he has to make his stay in the POW camp of Changi as comfortable as possible, and of course the people who weren't clever enough to think of it first hate him for it. He introduces an Englishman to what he calls the American way of enterprise, and the Englishman actually grapples with guilt over the means by which he earns his profits; and it actually does seem to be justified, as not all of the King's business dealings are exactly on the up-and-up.
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